Preparing for a reporting trip to Turkey now, first to Istanbul, the cosmopolitan capital if not the political one, then farther, to the arid swath set between the Euphrates and the Tigris, near the border with Syria.
Many starting points before the airport landing; one is the written "Istanbul," by Orhan Pamuk, last year's recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature. It is early into this trip yet, but a rough road map to the physical and personal terrain appears on page 8:
"At times when I accept as my own the stories I've heard about my city and myself," Pamuk writes, "I'm tempted to say, 'Once upon a time I used to paint. I hear I was born in Istanbul, and I understand that I was a somewhat curious child. ...' I'd have liked to write my entire story this way - as if my life were something that happened to someone else, as if it were a dream in which I felt my voice fading and my will succumbing to enchantment. Beautiful though it is, I find the language of epic unconvincing, for I cannot accept that the myths we tell about our first lives prepare us for the brighter, more authentic second lives that are meant to begin when we awake. ..."